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Promoting Progress: Artists Advancing Woman Suffrage in World War One Poster Propaganda

Forty students in Dr. Little’s two First-Year Seminars: America in the Modern Era, are selecting World War I poster propaganda depicting and targeting women from thousands of posters in the National Archives, the Library of  Congress, and the Smithsonian.  See the display at UCA’s Alumni Circle from October 29 to November 20, 2020.  And remember to register to vote!

World War I arrived amid the high point of poster art.  Created by some of the most popular artists of the era, these full-color posters could be mass produced as easily as they could be framed and hung in galleries.  The posters reveal that the artists and the organizations that commissioned them regarded women as crucial to American victory, whether they were growing a victory garden or driving an ambulance at the front.  The artists depicted women in expanded roles, employing women to convince Americans that the unpopular war could bring about positive change.  This second agenda of World War I poster propaganda was no accident.  Suffragists filled led the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense and had prominent roles in the Hoover Food Administration and war efforts like the United War Work Campaign.  Women’s war service became part of suffragists‘ arguments that women deserved to vote equally with men, encouraging other women to join the suffrage movement and leading to passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

These themes in World War I posters promoted women’s progress.
Columbia and Lady Liberty

Housework=War Work

Women Who Are Larger than Life

Women in New Paid Jobs–at equal pay!

Women Wearing Uniforms Who Served in Civilian Organizations

Women in the Red Cross

Women Who Served in Private Organizations at the Front

Women Who Served in the US Military

The New Woman:  Freed from Victorian Restraints

World War One posters also the almost universal racism of American leaders.  Few posters depicted African Americans or other people of color.  Learn more here and see some African American who served in WWI.